Reading Response: A Focus on Vocabulary

Want to help your children or students build their vocabulary? Try this exercise.

Prepare to Read

First, either instruct your children or students to read for a set amount of time. When I was a classroom teacher my standard “student choice” reading homework assignment was to read for 10 minutes, 3-5 nights a week.

You might do the same with your children or students, or you might read aloud for a set time period or length of pages. Be sure, if you are a parent, your child is sitting beside you so he or she can see the text as your read. If you are a teacher, be sure you are reading from a text that all the students can have a copy of, so they can follow along.

Print the following statements onto a note card, project them on your Smartboard, or write them on your whiteboard:

  • A word I did not know or was not certain of the meaning of was…
  • I found it in this sentence…
  • I think it means…
  • I looked it up in the dictionary and it means…

As you or they read, tell your students to be on the lookout for a word for the exercise.


Instruct your child or student to begin reading, or you begin reading. It is best if you do this in a quiet room without a lot of distractions. Tell him or her to write down the word and page number when they spot it and then continue reading for the allotted time.


When done, instruct your students or child go back to the page they noted and copy down the sentence in which he or she found the word. Instruct them to fill in the remaining statements or, if your group is small enough, discuss the remaining statements together.


Challenge your students or child to look for ways to use their new word for the next few days.

Your Turn

How do you like to help your children or students to expand their vocabulary?


Welcome Back, Greek and Latin Roots

Column.ExercisesDespite the fact that I discontinued Greek and Latin root spelling lessons back in 2012, these lessons remain among the most frequently visited of my posts. And, it is easy to understand why.

While Latin has long been regarded as a dead language in terms of modern usage, and the Greek of the ancients is not the same as the Greek of today, English (and French, and Spanish, and many other European languages) is littered with their offspring!

In my teaching, I have found the vocabulary/spelling study of words using classical roots to be a great way to expand usable vocabulary and build word deciphering skills. Over the years, I done my own research, collected roots and words, built lists of my own, and created a Greek and Latin Root Vocabulary/Spelling program.

While I am no longer responsible for teaching spelling, my interest in these words will not leave me alone. Therefore, this school year, I have decided to post (both here and in my classroom) a root, or root pair, each week along with definitions and some words to play with and explore that utilize the root.

Over time, I will share some of the methods I adopted and devised to help my students learn these roots and make them their own.

I hope you will find this little jaunt into word history as intriguing as I do, and as beneficial to yourself or your students as I have. Watch next Monday for the Greek/Latin root of the week.


Greek and Latin Roots Vocabulary and Spelling, Unit I Lesson V: Eu, Bene, Caco, and Mal

1. eu = well/easy/agreeable
2. euphoria
3. bene = good
4. beneficial
5. caco = vile/diseased
6. cacophony
7. mal = bad/defective
8. malignant

Review Roots

9. mater/matri = mother
10. patr = father
11. filia/filius = son/daughter
12. zo = animal
13. avi = bird
14. saur = lizard

Simplified List use only the roots and the following words:

4. benefit
8. malice

Challenge List use only the roots and the following words:

2. euphemism
4. benevolence
6. cacophonous
8. malnutrition

A Greek and Latin Roots Review Exercise—Roots for Early Dismissal Vocabulary Exercise

One of my students’ favorite ways to review their Greek and Latin roots was to play “Roots for Early Dismissal.”

  • What do you need to play?
  • The list of the week’s roots and review roots
  • Popsicle sticks or slips of paper with your students’ names on them
  • A container to hold the names

How do you play?

Give your students enough time to clean up and gather their stuff so you will have about 2-3 minutes before the bell rings. Do not start the play until everyone is sitting quietly in their seats with their things, ready to go.

Draw a name and say a root. If that student provides a definition for the root, she may leave. If she can’t, continue to draw names until someone finally defines it and leaves. Only allow students five-ten seconds to define the root before you move on to a new student.

Once one root has been defined, proceed to a new name and the next root on the list.

When you come to the end of the root list just go back to the beginning and keep playing until the bell rings.

My students loved the opportunity to get out of class early, even if it was only a few seconds, so they were all eager to participate in the game. And students who had not yet learned their roots benefited from hearing their classmates correctly define them.

The pace moved so fast there was not much time for any one student to be embarrassed if he missed a root, and students who needed the practice sometimes got a second chance to play and experience success–if they had been listening.

So give it a try. I’ll guarantee “Roots for Early Dismissal” will become a favorite in your classroom as it did in mine.